Word is Bond focuses on dream actualization for young black males

Posted on: Tuesday, 18 April 2023

"White young people are open to 'freedom dream.' But for young blacks, there are challenges to 'freedom dreams.' We start to see possibilities close around us."

For Lakayana Drury, growing up in a mixed-race family in Wisconsin, he experienced life's dreams being "blocked." The education system didn't work for him. "I was diagnosed with a learning disability (not uncommon, he said, for African-Americans). "For a lot of black students, the education system seemed hostile."

Yet he found himself as "a natural-born 'freedom dreamer'." Early college experiences were challenging--especially "being in a predominantly white space...a college of 7,000 with only 100 black students." But Drury persevered, became a 4.0 student, and was helped by a male mentor (after growing up without a father in the home). "My adult self came out...I had a chance to reinvent myself."

In time he studied his own "historic blackness," earned a teaching degree and taught at Rosemary Anderson h.s. in Portland ("focusing my classroom on getting students to feel welcome"). And a dream emerged:

"What if young black men were empowered," he wondered, instead of enduring obstacles ranging from micro-aggressions to living with the implication that they can't succeed.

In 2017 in Portland, Drury helped form Word is Bond (see http://www.mywordisbond.org). From the non-profit's website comes this summary:

"Word is Bond empowers young Black men as they transition from boys into adulthood and find themselves navigating a world that provides very few answers to unlocking their highest selves. Harnessing the soul force of Black boy joy and the power of storytelling we create dynamic programming to provide an answer to our mission statement; What if young Black men were empowered to their fullest potential?

"In creating Word is Bond, we felt strongly about the need to center the unique experiences of young Black men. We saw the deficits; the lack of Black male mentors and decades of data pointing to the underachievement of Black men, as well as the opportunities; the rich history of Black leadership, and the power of narrative ownership to impact self-identity...

"Word is Bond engages young Black men ages 15 through 20 years old through five award-winning programs: Rising Leaders, Level Up, In My Shoes, the Spring Leadership Forum, and the Black Star Homecoming Expedition."

For black males ages 15-20, Word is Bond offers a plan to dream and succeed...and overcome what Drury experienced early in his life: "I grew up having to navigate a space where there wasn't a blueprint for," he told Rotarians.

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721 NW 9th Ave #200
Portland, OR 97209
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